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Accused Las Vegas dealership gains extension

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A Las Vegas, Nev.-based  independent tire dealership that has been sued by the State of Nevada Office of the Attorney General for allegedly engaging in deceptive trade practices now has until May 15 to respond to the state's accusations.

The state is seeking to shutter Morpheus Investments Inc. dba Tire Works Total Car Care.

It filed a civil lawsuit against the company on March 31. (The firm was scheduled to submit an official response yesterday, April 22, but has been granted a requested extension.)

The suit --  which was, in part, the result of an undercover investigation by the state -- accuses Morpheus/Tire Works of multiple violations of Nevada's Deceptive Trade Practices Act at 11 of the company's 13 stores.

Twenty-three separate consumer complaints have been filed since 2006, Raelene Palmer, Nevada deputy attorney general, told www.moderntiredealer.com.

According to the Office of the Attorney General, specific complaints include:

* Misrepresenting a connection or association with a national auto repair chain.

* Misrepresenting that parts and service were of a particular standard, quality or grade when they were not.

* Advertising goods and services with the intent not to sell them as advertised.

* Making false or misleading statements of fact concerning the price of goods for sale.

* Fraudulently altering a written statement of charges or other documents in connection with the sale of goods and services.

* Making false representations in sales transactions.

* Stating that services, replacement parts or repairs were needed when they were not.

* Failing to make delivery of goods or services within a reasonable time or to provide refunds.

* Failing to restore payments made for transactions subsequently rescinded.

* Failing to disclose material facts in connection with a sale.

* Failing to make repairs in accordance with manufacturer specification.

* Failing to deliver all parts and accessories replaced.

* Improperly detaining a motor vehicle to enforce payment.

*  Adding charges to customer invoices for services that were not authorized or obtained.

* Engaging in false and deceptive advertising.

The company also is being sued for failure to register with the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) for authorization to operate a garage and failure to post a bond with the DMV.

As part of its investigation, the Nevada Consumer Affairs Division "had an automotive expert examine their undercover vehicle while they documented any legitimate automotive repair needs," according to a statement released by the Attorney General's Office on March 31.

"After this expert documentation, a decoy driver was sent to three different Tire Works locations for an overall inspection of the automobile. At each of the locations, it is alleged that unnecessary service repairs were recommended following an inspection which was not in accordance with industry standards required to render a professionally recognized estimate."

The State of Nevada is seeking to dissolve the corporation and is asking that the company pay restitution to injured customers.

Morpheus/Tire Works also may be forced to pay civil penalties up to $5,000 for each violation, as well as extra penalties of $12,500 for each violation directed toward an elderly person or a person with a disability.

After the dealership submits comments on May 15, the next step is the start of "the normal court process," Palmer told www.moderntiredealer.com. "It's not a quick process. It takes time to go through the court system."

This isn't the first time the State of Nevada has tried to shut down an automotive-related operation that was allegedly engaged in fraud, she added. "We've done it with a couple of auto repair shops."

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